Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Trends in Perception of COVID-19 in Polish Internet

Version 1 : Received: 5 May 2020 / Approved: 6 May 2020 / Online: 6 May 2020 (04:23:46 CEST)

How to cite: Jarynowski, A.; Wojta-Kempa, M.; Belik, V. Trends in Perception of COVID-19 in Polish Internet. Preprints 2020, 2020050093. Jarynowski, A.; Wojta-Kempa, M.; Belik, V. Trends in Perception of COVID-19 in Polish Internet. Preprints 2020, 2020050093.


Introduction: Due to the spread of SARS CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 disease, there is an urgent need to analyse COVID-19 epidemic perception in Poland. This study aims to investigate social perception of coronavirus in the Internet media during the epidemic. It is a signal report highlighting the main issues in public perception and medical commutation in real time. Methods: We study the perception of COVID-19 epidemic in Polish society using quantitative analysis of its digital footprints on the Internet on platforms: Google, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia and electronic media represented by Event Registry, from January 2020 to 29.04.2020 (before and after official introduction to Poland on 04.03.20). We present trend analysis with a support of natural language processing techniques. Results: We identified seven temporal major clusters of interest on the topic COVID-19: 1) Chinese, 2) Italian, 3) Waiting, 4) Mitigations, 5) Social distancing and Lockdown, 6) Anti-crisis shield, 7) Restrictions releasing. There was an exponential increase of interest when the Polish government “declared war against disease” around 11/12.03.20 with a massive mitigation program. Later on, there was a decay in interest with additional phases related to social distancing and an anti-crisis legislation act with local peaks. We have found that declarations of mitigation strategies by the Polish prime minister or the minister of health gathered the highest attention of Internet users. So enacted or in force events do not affect interest to such extent. Traditional news agencies were ahead of social media (mainly Twitter) in dissemination of information. We have observed very weak or even negative correlations between a colloquial searching term 'antiviral mask' in Google, encyclopaedic definition in Wikipedia “SARS-CoV-2” as well official incidence series, implying different mechanisms governing the search for knowledge, panic related behaviour and actual risk of acquiring infection. Conclusions: Traditional and social media do not only reflect reality, but also create it. Risk perception in Poland is unrelated to actual physical risk of acquiring COVID-19. As traditional media are ahead of social media in time, we advise to choose traditional news media for a quick dissemination of information, however for a greater impact, social media should be used. Otherwise public information campaigns might have less impact on society than expected.


Internet; medical sociology; epidemiological monitoring; SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; communications media; risk perception


Public Health and Healthcare, Public Health and Health Services

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